Zenyatta loses at Breeders Cup

RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

Zenyatta was near perfect. But that only means the mare will not be going to broodmare duty with an undefeated record.

Her run in the $5-million US Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs looked textbook Zenyatta. Settle into a trailing position early, glide up the field around the turn, then find a spot and go full throttle towards the line. Except this time, a four-year-old colt named Blame got there first, less than a head in front.

But there were some subtle differences between this run and the previous 19 straight wins we'd seen from her. And speculation can begin as to whether the dirt, the fact that the race was run at night, or something else caused her to be slightly off her game.

Breaking from post 8 in front of a crowd that screamed for her for about 20 minutes prior, it took Zenyatta a couple of strides to get into her comfortable early tempo. And early in the race, her stride was so slow that Smith had to quicken her a bit just to get close to the trailing pack.

When she did start her final move, she did have a little trouble finding room near the rail, causing Smith to tap the brakes a bit just before the quarter pole. Her drift to the outside was reminiscent of her move in last year's Classic. But despite the urging of Smith, she never got to Blame.

"I'm a little devastated right now," jockey Mike Smith told ESPN after the race. "I'm trying to bring myself together."

Nonetheless, she returned to an appreciative crowd and while Smith's disappointment was evident, trainer John Shirreffs seemed to take it more in stride.

"I'm so happy with Zenyatta," he said. "I'm so proud of how she ran."

"What can you do? It's horse racing."

With the Classic win, the focus shifts to Blame, who is a legitimate candidate for U.S. horse of the year. He earlier captured the Grade I Stephen Foster and Whitney Handicaps and has won seven of his past nine starts the past two years. The win pushed his earnings to $4.1 million. His trip involved staying in midpack near the rail and finding a seam between horses to grab the lead just past the eighth pole.

Blame was ridden by Garrett Gomez, who would end up with three victories in the 14-race event, and nearly didn't make it to the starting gate. A spill in a race at Churchill on Thursday left him with pain in his right shoulder that bothered him the past two days.

In the other races on Saturday:

Gomez' other winner Saturday (he also won one Friday) was Pluck in the Juvenile Turf. The Todd Pletcher trainee won the Summer Stakes at Woodbine in his previous start.

Goldikova became the first horse to win the same Breeders' Cup race three years in a row with her spectacular win in the Mile.

Uncle Mo stamped himself as the early favourite for next year's Triple Crown races with a big win in the Juvenile.

Dangerous Midge gave Frankie Dettori another Breeders' Cup win with his upset in the Turf.

Big Drama with Eibar Coa captured the Sprint gate to wire.

Chamberlain Bridge captured the Turf Sprint in 56.53 seconds.

Dakota Phone with Joel Rosario pulled a 37-1 shocker in the Dirt Mile.


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